Go to:
Online Doc
Meeting Request
John DeSantis's picture

MLS degree requirement for ALA Executive Director

  Some of you may be aware that last month, in an unprecedented online vote, ALA Council voted in favor of removing the requirement for the ALA Executive Director to hold the MLS/MLIS degree. 

   There is now a membership petition aimed at reversing this action. If you are interested in preserving the values of our profession, please sign the petition here. Click on "sign" and the text of the petition will appear before you sign.  The goal of the petition is to put this question before the ALA membership on the spring ballot.




John DeSantis

ALA Councilor at Large

Sara Dallas's picture

I am  greatly concerned about how this narrative is being framed - it presumes that the only way to maintain professional values is to sign the petition.  This negates all of the work that was done by the ALA Executive Board, ALA Search Committee, all of the ALA Divisions, and the ALA Councilors.  I would like to remind everyone that the ALA Code of Ethics states that we treat co-workers and other colleagues with respect, fairness and good faith.

One word was added to the announcement - the word preferred.  I advocate that we put our energy into encouraging people with the degree and qualifications to apply.  The Search Committee and the Executive Board did not ask for the vote in a capricious nor unethical manner.   Every Division endorsed the effort to add the word preferred to the description. I have fullest confidence in Courtney Young’s search committee, Jim Neal, the Executive Board and the ALA Councilors whom voted electronically. 

Sara Dallas

ALA Councilor at Large

Chair Committee on Professional Ethics

Librarian for over 40 years

Megan Baird (non-member)'s picture

First of all, I have not seen anyone say anything badly about the work that was done by the Council. The point of disagreement arises from the use of the word "preferred." There may indeed be a lot of qualified individuals that do not have a MLS degree who would do well as an Executive Director. However, when it comes to understanding the unique needs and values of the profession as a whole, I feel that would be best handled by someone holding that degree. 

It seems more appropriate that the right candidate be chosen from the members of the library profession. By making the MLS degree a "preferred" versus a requirement, you run the risk of getting someone who may be great business wise but lacks the understanding and commitment to the unique vision and mission of librarianship. And that would be unfortunate.

Megan Baird,

Branch Manager, Yuma County 


Kathleen McCook's picture

Would we prefer our physician has a medical degree? Our accountant has a CPA? Our teachers certification? I believe as much in librarians.

This one word is important to an association that accredits librarians through the Committee on Accreditation. The discussion is meant to permit membership wide input. If the will of membership is to prefer and not require the degree then the membership will have decided.

Kathleen McCook

Librarian & Librarian educator for over 40 years.



Kathleen de la Peña McCook

Sarah Hill's picture

I am pleased the Council acted in the best interests of our organization and voted online to add the world "preferred" to the announcement.  

I agree with Sara--I'm dismayed on how this petition is being presented. The elected body of our organization already voted--I have confidence in them.  I consider myself a forward-thinking ALA member and I want the best executive director hired as soon as possible.  The delay we're undergoing is damaging to our organization and to our divisions.  I won't sign the petition. Why? Because I have the fullest confidence in the search committee and the majority of the Councilors.

I want an expert in organizational change co-leading ALA with the library-expert president. We need this expertise to move our organization forward. Please see this document from the YALSA Board for more information.  

Sarah Hill, Information Services Librarian, Lake Land College, Mattoon, Illinois

YALSA Immediate Past-President and ACRL member

Past President of the Illinois School Library Media Association

Diedre Conkling's picture

This petition is to place the question before ALA Membership about whether or not they want spelled out in ALA policy that the Executive Director of ALA must have a MLS or CAEP-accredited Master's Degree with a specialty in school library media.  The question would be placed on the Spring 2018 ballot.

The petition does not ask that the current search be stopped.  It does not ask that the current search committee delay the search until after the election. Because of the timing on this it would not affect the current search.

It is just placing our preferred language back into the policy for future hiring of an ALA Executive Director.

Sure, I would like for who ever is hired this time around have the degree but that is not affected one way or the other by this petition.


Kathleen McCook's picture

I see the point on organizational change expertise, but take a look at the Standards for Accreditation---every effort is made to develop these skills in graduates:




Kathleen de la Peña McCook

Kathleen McCook's picture

I see the point on organizational change expertise, but take a look at the Standards for Accreditation---every effort is made to develop these skills in graduates:




Kathleen de la Peña McCook

Dustin Larmore's picture

I will not sign the petition. In a perfect world, the best Executive Director we could get will have an MLS. However, that does not mean that someone with a love for libraries and what they do could not do an excellent job as Executive Director. I have seen excellent library administrators without degrees; I have seen mediocre administrators with degrees. The degree requirement may keep us from getting whom the association really needs. The Executive Director is not running a library; they are running an organization. The comparison with a medical doctor having a M.D. is misplaced.

Dustin Larmore

Interlibrary Loan Librarian

SD Dept. of Education/SD State Library


Kathleen McCook's picture

Not to me. I believe librarians take care of people before they are born  helping young parents until they go off into the night. Librarians provide solace for the grief stricken, hope for the disenfranchised, support to the jobless and direction for life's needs. The work you all do is so utterly nuanced, complex and difficult. It combines technical skills, sociological acumen, and an affect that is welcoming and supportive.  The comparison to the medical credential is only misplaced because it isn't enough. Our new ED will need to understand the span of responsibilities in many diverse settings that serve every single human in the nation.

Kathleen de la Peña McCook

Doug Archer's picture

A few miscellaneous observations.

  • I have voted both ways on this in my two opportunities to go on record.
  • Regardless of how I voted, the process certainly seemed fair and correct in all of its particulars.
  • Calling for reconsideration by petition is one more option; its perfectly appropriate.
  • There's absolutely no evidence of bad faith by anyone.

As to the ALA/AMA analogy, physicians and their professional association vs ALA as our professional association -- the AMA is made up of medical doctors. There is a separate hospital organization (the American Hospital Association) composed of hospital administrators and the like.  There is also a separate American Nurses Association along with many other health related professions .  ALA is composed of librarians and library workers and library trustees and, most importantly for this discussion, libraries as organizations.  We sometimes seem to be assuming that ALA is the American LIBRARIANS Association.  Of course, this observation doesn't solve our problem but, as far as I can tell, making such a close comparison of the ALA with the AMA doesn't either.  

Best wishes,

Doug Archer

Counselor at Large





J. Douglas Archer Reference & Peace Studies Librarian 246 Hesburgh Library University of Notre Dame Notre Dame, IN 46556 574-631-6656 voice | 574-631-8887 fax archer.1@nd.edu | www.nd.edu/~jarcher

Katharine Phenix's picture

I am as concerned about the way the decision was made to change the wording of the requirements for ALA Executive Director as I am that the change might happen.  Unprecedented, I believe. This is not editing to change, say, number of years in a management position (who knows, maybe there is a great manager out there who has never managed before...why limit it?) I would like membership to have a voice in this. Council does not appear to be anywhere near unanimous. I am very much in favor of requiring a person educated in librarianship.  If we don't value the degree in an executive director, why did we bother to get one ourselves?

Kathleen McCook's picture

I don't need to write a lengthy defense of the credential..we just need to look at the amazing librarians who go to work every day and make a difference in the lives of their communities.

 If you ask Lance Werner, executive director of the Kent District Library (KDL), MI, what makes him a strong leader, an effective legislative advocate, and a champion of access for his patrons, his answer is simple: it’s all about forming relationships—with his staff, legislators, local business owners and CEOs, county commissioners, Michigan Library Association (MLA) administrators, LIS educators, patrons, and anyone else in a 100-mile radius. Ask him again, and he’ll bring up words such as kindness and empathy and that he loves his job.


Kathleen de la Peña McCook